And some things to look forward to on Friday
Three teams showed no fear of behavioral baggage accompanying some prospects in the NFL draft’s first round. The rest were more reticent.
Tampa Bay believes it found its franchise quarterback at the top of the proceedings Thursday night, selecting Jameis Winston. The Florida State quarterback made plenty of headlines winning the Heisman Trophy in 2013 while leading the Seminoles to the national title, and again with his strong play last season.
He also drew way too much attention for off-field problems.
“One thing I don’t do is live in the past and I will not be negative. I’m very optimistic about this situation,” Winston said. “It’s been my lifelong dream to be a successful quarterback and great teammate in the NFL.”
Denver also didn’t struggle much with the fact Missouri defensive end Shane Ray was cited for marijuana possession on Monday. The Broncos traded up five spots to 23rd to get him.
That was much lower than many projections for Ray. Of course, marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, but Ray said there will be no temptations for him.
“When I was cited, I wasn’t under the influence. I don’t think weed is something that controls my life nor has it controlled my life or been an issue,” he said. “I think that’s really not a concern at all.
“But more so, I’m ready to move past that in my life. I’m not going to let that define me as a person and all the good I’ve done. I’m not going to let it define my character.”
Another player with marijuana on his resume, Nebraska linebacker Randy Gregory, tested positive at the NFL combine in February. He was not chosen in the first round despite generally being considered a top-32 talent.
Kansas City picked Washington cornerback Marcus Peters at No. 18 after extensive investigation into why he was dismissed from the Huskies last season — run-ins with coaches.
“We all make mistakes at times in life. Marcus realizes that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We feel comfortable he realizes that. It was an emotional situation and he didn’t handle it the right way. I think he’s learned from it, just from our experience with him.”
Several others who got into trouble in college remain on the board. It will be interesting to see how teams treat them considering the cases last year involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy that led to a new personal conduct policy.
Some things to look for in Friday’s second and third rounds:
IN TOWN AND STILL AVAILABLE: Of the 27 players invited to the draft, six went unselected Thursday: Gregory, Alabama safety Landon Collins, Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith, Penn State tackle Donovan Smith, Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong, and Mississippi State linebacker Bernardrick McKinney.
LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins was at the NFL Play 60 event in Chicago Wednesday, but did not attend the draft. He is being sought by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in an investigation into the murder of an ex-girlfriend. Police say he is not a suspect.
ALSO AVAILABLE BUT NOT IN CHICAGO: Likely to go in the second round, which begins at 7 p.m. EDT, are several highly touted players who didn’t fit team’s preferences on Thursday. Look for LSU cornerback Jalen Collins, Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, Virginia linebacker Eli Harold, Pittsburgh tackle T. J. Clemmings, Miami running back Duke Johnson and Ohio State defensive tackle Michael Bennett.
RUN ON RUNNING BACKS: For the first time in three drafts, a running back — actually two — was taken in the opening round. Georgia’s Todd Gurley, coming off a torn ACL, went to St. Louis at No. 10. Wisconsin’s record-setting Melvin Gordon was chosen 15th by San Diego, which moved up two spots in a trade with San Francisco to get him.
A run on running backs could be ahead. It is one of the deepest positions in this draft, and while teams have gone pass-happy in the pros, surely there will be room for the likes of Boise State’s Jay Ajayi, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Michigan State’s Devin Coleman, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, and Minnesota’s David Cobb. All of them might go off the board Friday night.
DON’T FORGET THE LITTLE GUYS: No, not players without the “measurables” NFL teams seek, but guys from smaller schools. Among those prospects with a good shot of being selected in Rounds 2 or 3: RB David Johnson of Northern Iowa; OT Ali Marpet of Hobart, a Division III school; S Tevin McDonald of Eastern Washington; LB Davis Tull of Chattanooga; and QB Brandon Bridge of South Alabama.